Power shifting makes horizon difficult to see

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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We will eventually adapt, whether it's to Texas A&M to the SEC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and maybe even UConn in the ACC and potentially Kansas in the Big East.

It may take some time, but we'll get used to it.

Brad Stevens says the NCAA is so strong and can't imagine it changing. (Getty Images)  
Brad Stevens says the NCAA is so strong and can't imagine it changing. (Getty Images)  

But what would trump the league's game of musical chairs is if these potential mega-conferences come to fruition, the NCAA becomes no more and March Madness takes on an alteration.

That's truly what matters.

At least on the college hoops side.

Most agree that even if these mega-conferences do decide to part ways from the NCAA, it would be for football reasons -- and that the NCAA tournament likely wouldn't undergo wholesale changes.

But with all we've witnessed in the past week, it's impossible to predict.

Just imagine a scenario where the little guy is eliminated from the equation, where Cinderella can no longer attend the ball -- and maybe even the elite programs that aren't in these mega-leagues are left out in the cold.

It has crossed Xavier coach Chris Mack's mind, but he and guys like Gonzaga's Mark Few, Butler's Brad Stevens and Memphis' Josh Pastner don't seem overly concerned.

"There's no way that they can change what makes the NCAA tournament so special in college basketball," Mack said. "Fans love when a 14-seed knocks off a 3-seed."

"Certainly you hear the talk," Stevens added. "I'm not in those rooms and can't tell you what's really going on, but what I can tell you is that the NCAA tournament is incredibly successful -- and everybody loves it. It's so strong and I can't imagine it changing. People look forward to those first four days more than anything else."

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"I'm not worried," Few chipped in.

"Neither am I," Pastner said.

Let's face it. The Big Dance needs the Little Guy, contrary to what ESPN's Jay Bilas, one of the brightest minds in college basketball, says. Sure, we don't want a Final Four chock-full of non-power conference teams. However, Mack is dead-on.

No one wants to see the 11th-place team in the ACC going up against the Pac-12's 14th squad on Thursday afternoon or Friday night.

The idea seems far-fetched, but did anyone truly envision an ACC with Syracuse and Pittsburgh as members.

I'm not eliminating any scenario from the equation these days, ones in which the almighty dollar and greed rank well above that of what these school administrators have been preaching all these years: the student athlete.

It would be difficult to imagine the NCAA being squeezed out -- and if it happens, it'll take time and a mammoth organizational effort from someone. There would have to be a whole new rule book and programs would no longer be able to take advantage of tax exempt status, one major asset that the NCAA brings to the table.

However, Few agreed that after the conference re-alignment finally takes shape, then hoops fans will turn their attention to the even larger picture: March.

"It's the only thing ultimately, at the end of the day, that people care about," Few admitted.

"I don't think anything will change with the NCAA tournament," Pastner said. "Impossible? No, but I just can't see it."

Me, too, but no one could envision Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim in the ACC.

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